Notes: This is for the 'Pain is weakness' challenge on the Young Justice Fanfiction Challenges forum. I encourage all to go and check it out!

Standard Disclaimers Apply

In Atlantis, there was no reason to fear it. If the nose or mouth was blocked, then the gills would take over oxygen transport and vice versa.

But on the surface world…gills are useless.

The big, meaty arm wrapped around his throat was slowly crushing his windpipe. His lungs were screaming for air as he fought his assailant, trying to break free. His limbs began to feel like lead and his whole body began to tingle.

His eyes were wild as his moves began to get more desperate. Finally, with what felt like was a herculean feat, Kaldur broke free from his attacker.

Panting, Kaldur took deep breaths, trying to answer his cells' plea for oxygen. Knowing that he can't rest long, Kaldur rushes forward and delivers a quick blow to his opponent's solar plexus followed by a strike to the jaw that knocks the man to the ground, unconscious.

Kaldur rubs his neck self-consciously. He takes that moment to look around, and sees his teammates dispatch the rest of the thugs.

"Is," Kaldur coughs, trying to clear his raspy voice, "is everyone alright?"

Various affirmative signs (be it a nod or a chipper yep!) go around.

"Are you alright?" Megan asks, concerned.

"I'm fine. It was nothing that I couldn't handle."

Every night, it comes in his dreams.

The feel of something locking around his throat, the terrible sensation of asphyxiation. He twists and turns, trying to break free; knowing that he cannot. Sometimes it is the same meaty arm, other times a hand, and sometimes on nothing at all.

He wakes with a gasp, his body drenched in cold sweat, his coverings a twisted pile on the floor. With a groan, he lies back down, his hand coming up to cover his eyes.

For five days, nothing but the same dream. It was starting to show up in training, in his performance as team leader. For five days he hasn't felt like himself.

Rolling out of his bed, Kaldur pads out of his room and into the kitchen. The room is dark, but Kaldur can see the faint outline of the refrigerator. He opens it and retrieves the carton of orange juice.

"So you're the orange juice thief."

Kaldur nearly jumps out of his skin. Whirling around, he finds himself in a defensive position before he realizes that it is just Superboy.

"Superboy. What are you doing up?"

"I could ask you the same thing—but then, I think I have a good idea. Something's been bothering you," Superboy says in his blunt way.

"You've noticed; I'm sorry."

Superboy looks awkward for a moment before saying, "Want to talk about it?"

Kaldur walks to the island and takes a seat, Superboy following suit.

"I keep…dreaming of being suffocated," Kaldur says self-consciously, seeming to stare through his clasped hands.

"This is about our last mission?"

"Yes. I know it is foolish and that I shouldn't dwell on it...but I can't stop thinking about it. I can't even wear shirts too close to my neck," Kaldur laughs disparagingly.

"You're not being foolish. Fear is something we all feel. You just can't let it weigh you down."

Kaldur gives a worn smile, "And what is it that you fear?"

Superboy becomes very silent and serious; his jaw clenches tightly, "Rats," he grinds out.

Blinking, Kaldur shakes his head. They are both silent for a while before Superboy says, "We're here for you, you know?"

Kaldur nods, "I know."

Superboy is hesitant but forges on, "And if you ever need to talk—

"You're there for me. Thank you, Superboy."

Superboy shifts before getting up and clapping a hand on Kaldur's back, heading out of the room, "Night."

Kaldur downs some orange juice and goes to his room. He lies down, and falls into a restful sleep. Not once does he dream of meaty arms or grabbing hands.

Notes: If you couldn't tell, my assigned phobia was the fear of choking/suffocation. Comments are love!